CUltural Appropriations of black americans
By Trishanna Craddock, senior writer
Photo source: celebuzz.com
“What would America be like if we loved Black people as much as we love black culture?”
This quote comes from Amandla Stenberg, actress of the hit movie The Hunger Games. In 2015, the 17 year-old actress feuded with reality star Kylie Jenner who posted a photo of herself posing in a mirror with cornrows with the caption, “I woke up like dis”. Cornrows is a style that African-Americans have been wearing for many years, to protect our hair. This hairstyle cornrows dates back to thousands of years ago in ancient civilizations in Africa, such as Nigeria. Cornrows became more popular within the African American community during the 1960s Black Pride Movement when people wanted to embrace their African roots to show off the natural texture of their hair. Many fans of Jenner complimented the ethnic hairstyle, but Stenberg wasn’t one of them. She commented; "When u appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter”.
Kylie responded in a way that proved she missed the point of Stenberg’s statement; “Mad if I don’t mad if I do… go hang with Jaden or something. Amandla’s issue behind the picture is not because Kylie is wearing cornrows, it's because she sports these styles and features of Black culture without acknowledging the history behind it. For the past few years, many people in the entertainment industry has “adapted” Black culture into their everyday lives.
“Time” magazine columnist writer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar believes that “White Americans would agree that the influence of Black culture on Americans is significant”. That is very true, except the fact that White Americans portray black culture in an offensive way without even acknowledging the anger they are causing.
The underwear out of the pants (sagging), rap language, twerking, hairstyles are aspects of the African-American culture that white people have borrowed and then used as a stereotype to negatively label us by. When Taylor Swift released her video to her hit song “Shake it Off” she received a lot of backfire for a scene imitating and stereotyping African-Americans. From the large gold hoop earrings, twerking, breakdancing and the sweatsuits Swift’s video screamed stereotypes of what she thought African American culture to be.
One artist that always get thrown under the bus for cultural appropriation is famed rapper Iggy Azalea. Azalea was first discovered by Atlanta rapper T.I, who eventually signed her to his imprint label Hustle Gang Records. Before she was discovered, Azalea moved to Miami from a small town in Australia. In her interviews, she speaks with her Australian accent, but when Azalea raps in her songs, you can hear a thick southern accent… one that is quite similar to a black woman’s southern accent.
Many people have bashed her for stealing black artists style and sound and using her race to sell more records than other artists. In 2014, Forbes magazine declared “Hip-hop is run by a white, blonde, Australian woman”. The whole hip-hop community totally disagreed with this statement, which is a slap in a face to other artists. Many believe that Azalea showcases her styles that are from the black culture, but she does not speaks about it politically.
Rapper Azealia Banks posted a tweet, stating “it's funny to see people Like Igloo Australia silent when these things happen... Black Culture is cool, but black issues sure aren't huh?”, in response to Forbes’ article. The point Banks was trying to make is that Azalea likes to appropriate black culture in her music and fashion, but she doesn’t speak about issues that are happening within the Black community.
Going back to Stenberg, she is making the point that Jenner and Azalea are not putting her popularity to use. With all of the police brutality that’s occurring throughout the African-American community, there should be more people using their power or celebrity to bring attention to this topic.. Instead of promoting the latest Birkin bag on your Instagram page, post videos of you campaigning the movement #BlackLivesMatter.
In the wake of Ferguson and Eric Garner, Azalea ignored these issues that had a huge effect on African Americans. If she can steal from black culture, the least she can do is use her “Southern accent” to voice her opinion on these terrible tragedies and stick up for the people she steals from! It is questionable to think she has stole hip-hop’s sound but hasn’t given back to the culture in any kind of way unlike other rappers.
By comparison, the white hip hop artist Macklemore showed support for Ferguson protesters and Action Bronson judged the Eric Garner ruling, calling it disgusting.
I think it is fair to ask white artists who take Black culture to at least offer support of Black issues in America. Instead of hanging out with African Americans and taking our culture trying to prove you’re not racist, join a protest pertaining to Black rights and police brutality. If you want to be a rapper, make sure you research and learn your history of this culture instead of using it just to sell a million records. Everyone wants to be black but doesn’t understand the struggles or history behind this culture.